The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) is not in the business of endorsing dietary supplements. There are no “WADA-approved” supplements in the world.
If an impression is being created, following the spate of positive tests reported in Indian athletics in recent days, that WADA does approve certain supplements, it needs to be clarified that there is no such thing as “WADA-approved.”
In fact, the WADA prohibits its accredited laboratories from testing supplements or endorsing any commercial product unless such testing is at the request of an anti-doping agency in connection with a dope investigation or disciplinary procedures.
The UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKADA), without having any approval system, guides athletes towards an independent website system through which they can verify whether a product is reputed, trustworthy or safe.
There is no commitment from UKAD, though about certifying such a product. No National Anti-Doping Organisation (NADO) endorses a product nor do they give online information about supplements on their drug reference online system.
It becomes an athlete's responsibility to explain how a banned drug got into the system. ‘Strict liability' is the fundamental principle. In simpler terms, athletes are responsible for what they ingest.
Despite having been in existence for more than two years, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) has not put out a supplements warning on its website. Almost every NADO in the world has a standard warning about supplements.
Last year when a spate of methylhexaneamine positive cases were reported, taking some of the athletes unawares, most of the leading NADOs put out special warnings to keep a watch on MHA.
The NADA is yet to do so. Though it has done a commendable job in exposing the doping menace in Indian athletics, the NADA would do well to issue an MHA warning since more and more athletes are falling for that drug.
There is no mystery in either MHA or methandienone, the drug that is at the centre of the latest controversy, producing a flurry of ‘positive' tests. It only shows a particular drug is getting popular or a particular supplement is gaining preference.
It may also show that the source of a specific batch of ‘positive' cases could be just one source. No one raises this question when there is a spate of cases that throw up stanozolol or nandrolone. And testosterone, as reported earlier, continues to be the drug of choice in doping the world over.
A general question has also been raised in doping debates in recent days that no international athlete, who knows he is in the registered testing pool, will ever dope since he would know he could be tested any time.
Any athlete could be tested any time, anywhere, not necessarily registered athletes. The difference is an unregistered athlete need not be at a place where testers might come searching; he can easily evade if he is tipped off.
A registered athlete has to stay put at a particular place for one hour each day if he has listed that place in his ‘whereabouts' form.
“I have never tested positive”, an often-repeated argument, also has little meaning when you actually test positive. More than 95 to 98 per cent of the athletes undergoing bans are first-time offenders. Otherwise the doping world would be full of athletes serving life bans.